Assemblymember Julia Brownley’s bill to ban single-use bags, AB 1998, passed out of the Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3 vote Monday. If the Heal the Bay-sponsored bill is signed into law, California retailers (grocery, drug and convenience stores) would phase out the use of single-use plastic, bioplastic and paper bags by 2012.
Support for the bill followed party lines, with the ayes coming from Chesbro, Brownley, Huffman, Skinner, De Leon and Hill. Gilmore, Knight, and Logue dissented.
The supportive discussion focused on the detrimental environmental and economic impacts of single-use bags. Environmental groups, recyclers and local governments all testified in support. Chico Bag, the makers of those cool, compactable reusable bags, discussed the green job potential of the bill. Chico estimates that California has 20 reusable bag companies.
The usual suspects spoke in opposition: The American Chemistry Council, plastic bag manufacturers, and the paper industry. (Just once I’d like to be on the same side of an issue with the ACC – maybe green chemistry is a possibility?) Plastic bag manufacturers and the ACC urged increased education and recycling. (That strategy has been ineffective to date. Some 19 billion reusable bags a year are still used in California.) They also played up potential employment impacts, probably in the hopes of getting the bill placed on the California Chamber of Commerce’s job killer list. Meanwhile, the paper industry presented its new life-cycle analysis research showing that environmental impacts from paper bag impacts aren’t as bad as shown in previous studies (those sponsored by the plastic bag industry).
In the end, the bill passed committee after being deftly championed by Assemblymember Brownley. Her efforts were buoyed by Assemblymember Chesbro talking about the environmental impacts of single-use plastics being a major concern for the state, and Assemblymember Skinner outlining the economic impacts of plastic bag pollution.
AB 1998 now moves on to the Assembly Appropriations committee, and will be heard by the end of May.